Key leaders are pushing to drive a tourism product for Katikati post Covid-19 to help the local economy as Kiwis look to holiday in Aotearoa.

Before alert level 4 lockdown arrived Western Bay Museum and Katch Katikati met with Tourism Bay of Plenty's product developer Brad Rowe to work on a tourism product for Katikati.

Town promotions manager Jacqui Knight said this is not a quick fix.

"For Katikati domestic tourism has always been the main tourism market.
"This work is continuing and it is important for people to realise how every business can be in the tourism industry - cafes, retailers, petrol stations - anyone who deals in consumable goods.

"We, as a town, need to pick our key attractions and really start to promote these in the domestic market."

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Knight sees the current highlights being the Haiku Pathway, the murals, Western Bay Museum, art galleries and studios, walk and cycleways. She said if they can attract visitors to local cafes and restaurants, all retailers benefit.

At Western Bay Museum January to May historically is a busy time for international students and tourists.

Museum manager Paula Gaelic said with Covid-19 international student visits were cancelled.
Museum manager Paula Gaelic said with Covid-19 international student visits were cancelled.

"With Covid-19 international student visits were cancelled and our momentum was lost with lockdown," museum manager Paula Gaelic said.
"Prior to lockdown we were working with Tourism Bay of Plenty on a unique 'Katikati Experience' and the 'Time is Right'.
"Now is the time to tap into national visitors."

Statistically, museums have economic benefits to other tourist attractions, hospitality and retail sectors," Gaelic said.
"We have strong alliances and partnerships within the community and together we can provide a great product."

Western Bay mayor Garry Webber believes Katikati is a great place for a family to base itself for a week's holiday.
"There are endless walks around the town and up into the lower Kaimais, and it is only a short drive to Waihi Beach, Athenree or even into Tauranga and over to the Mount.

"Nearly all attractions are outdoors and healthy and come at a very low to zero cost. There is the museum, Arts Junction, Mural Trail and very soon a Digital Hub. "For a young family the options are endless," Webber said.

Tourism has long been an important part of Katikati's economy owing to its enviable position in the Bay of Plenty, said Katikati-Waihi Beach Councillor James Denyer.

James Denyer, Katikati-Waihi Beach Ward Councillor.
James Denyer, Katikati-Waihi Beach Ward Councillor.

"With international tourism having closed for the foreseeable future, it is vital that we seize the opportunity and attract domestic tourists to Katikati, encouraging them to spend time (and money) here and boost the local economy.

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"This will be of benefit to accommodation providers, cafes, restaurants, shops and attractions as well as all their suppliers and employees."

Katikati Community Board chairman Ben Warren agreed that tourism of any kind is an added bonus to the local economy.

Ben Warren, Katikati Community Board Chairman.
Ben Warren, Katikati Community Board Chairman.

"Domestic tourism, whether sightseeing visitors, conference or business meetings, sporting events or recreational visits are all important drivers to helping local business.

"It will take some time as New Zealanders will be extra cautious with spending until the economy settles. We are also at risk of a potentially over-zealous government and its departments imposing too many controls on its citizens and restricting growth," Warren said.

Katikati's main street has been crying out for an upgrade for several years with work on hold waiting for a bypass road to be constructed to take heavy traffic away from the town centre.

Knight said we must once again as a whole community put pressure on the Katikati Community Board and Western Bay of Plenty District Council to get the main street and entrances to Katikati tidied and attractive.

Katikati's CBD is not a hindrance in itself, although most would agree a facelift and improvements would greatly help, Warren said.

"The busy State Highway 2 is the real detriment to making our town more attractive and desirable to stop in. Before Covid-19 it was an issue and after it still will be."

Warren said the Katikati Community Board is limited by funds Council makes available to improve the main centre, and businesses often are not in the financial position to improve their appearance and infrastructure.

"It will take a considerable funding boost, a bypass and a modern Town Plan design to push Katikati to become a very desirable destination."

Denyer said over the years a lot of people have worked hard to make Katikati the beautiful small town that it is, whether that is the creation and maintenance of the murals, or the lovely displays of hanging baskets that are put out each year, or the environmental restoration that is being carried out.

"However, all this work is undermined by having the town driven down the middle by SH2 traffic and consequent noise, congestion and pollution.

"How much better experience it would be for tourists and visitors if they could enjoy wandering down the main road, shopping and looking at the art and heritage in a more pleasant setting."

There is also the focus on Katikati being the Avocado Capital of New Zealand.

Knight said there is plenty of work to be done around building on this claim to fame, and there are already plans to bring an avocado sculpture into the centre of town.

"It is time for us to reimage Katikati, rebuild Katikati and restart Katikati into a tourism product that is Connecting with Nature, Connecting with Arts, Connecting with Culture.

"We have so many great features in Katikati and so much potential that working together we can nail this," she said. "We also don't have to do this alone."

Knight said Tourism NZ is introducing a domestic tourism promotion, Tourism Bay of Plenty have launched their "No Place Like Home" campaign. The NZ Motor Caravan Association is committing to a multi-pronged, national promotional campaign that is designed to encourage members to stop, stay and spend in Motorhome Friendly Towns.

Katikati was one of the first small towns to sign up as a Motor Home Friendly Town in 2012.

A key aspect of this campaign is a high-profile online discount coupon promotion. This was designed to encourage its members to spend local within the towns involved. Each Motorhome Friendly town is able to feature as many discount coupons as they can muster.